Another great stage yesterday – Peraud takes a giant step, Rafal Majka confirms, Nibali consolidates, Konig stumbles…
After breakfast we had a wander round Lourdes; it’s one weird place – but I said that yesterday.
We decided against the finish col to Saint-Lary Pla d’Adet – dead end climbs are nitemares to get off after the stage and we figured that the action might just start on the Col de Val Louron-Azet.
We got up there in plenty time, claimed our spot and waited ’til it was time to grab our caravan swag.
It’s always good to have a pile of caravan cheesey things, micro sausages and cookies in the boot for emergencies – and lunch was in fact, caravan swag.
You know you’re going to feel sick after it – but what the hell?
It’s le Tour.
Kiryienka was first man up, he was patently doomed – but Sky have to show the colours, I guess ?
If you look at how Omega Pharma QuickStep and Tinkoff-Saxo responded to losing their leaders – then compare that to Sky…
The break was a biggie, with some quality boys in there – Visconti, Majka, Mollema, Schleck, Roche, Van Den Broeck…
It was going to be the launch pad for the sort out on the final climb.
Again it was Pinot and his F des J riders applying the pressure with the maillot jaune looking well within his limits and still with team mates there – Kangert and Scarponi.
Fuglsang wasn’t there though, off the back, swathed in net bandages, head slumped between his shoulders.
There were ones and twos between the maillot jaune group and the big gruppetto where there wasn’t much laughing being done.
In the lead was Adam Hansen, he managed a smile for us and so did Jack Bauer.
We caught the action of the final climb in a wee roadside bar – ‘savage’ doesn’t do it justice.
On paper not a lot changed in the top 10 with the top six positions remaining unchanged.
Nibali leads by a country mile – 5:26 from Valverde who has just 34 seconds on Pinot and 42 seconds on Peraud whose dogged hanging on to the Italian in the finale means he’s within reach of Valverde in Saturday’s chrono.
But that could all change again today on the road to Hautacam ?
Peraud and Bardet couldn’t have a better manager behind them though; AG2R’s Vincent Lavenu was a pro for nine years with stage wins in the Tour of Portugal and Route du Sud.
He’s been in team management at varying levels for 23 years with eight different names on the jersey – AG2R since 1997 – with 161 different coureurs through his hands.
Jean-Francois Bernard, Jacky Durand, Christophe Moreau, Pascal Richard and Nicolas Roche to name but a few.
He’s been behind 395 victories, including 13 Tour stages and 16 days in yellow.
Not a bad palmares…
Big loser on the day was Kwiatkowski who plummeted from ninth @ 11:28 to 20th @ 36:41.
Leo Konig slipped too, from seventh @ 9:32 to ninth @ 12:40 but could well make time again, today.
We’re on the Tourmalet as I write this, so best get looking for them photo ops.